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Story [The Last of Us] A Deafening Silence

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Winter1231505, Oct 21, 2020.

  1. Winter1231505

    Winter1231505 Jedi Youngling

    Oct 16, 2020
    Chapter 1: A Cold Autumn Morning

    As the orange leaves crunched and shuffled alongside Sam’s feet, he could feel the trees rustling alongside the wind. He’d gone through many fall’s like this one, ones where the clouds blocked the sun and the wind loved to simply howl like a pack of wolves at midnight. However, there was something different this time, it wasn’t him; it wasn’t the forest around him, not even the weather. It was simply a feeling he was having, that something rotten was brewing, something he didn’t like one bit.

    Surviving by yourself for as long as he did, one learns to trust their own instincts almost… well, instinctually. A hunch here or a thought there was the difference between life and death, and when you’re dealing with funguses that can burrow into your lungs in only a single breath that line has been narrowed distinctly.

    ‘Eyes on the prize bucko, don’t forget where you’re going’ he thought to himself while continuing along the forest path, eventually making it to his destination, the city.

    A large and damaged ruin, overgrown with plants and fauna. The term ‘concrete jungle’ would be fitting if most of the concrete wasn’t buried by an ever-sprawling picture of nature taking it over. At one point, this place was most likely a bustling metropolis, filled with people and resources. He had heard stories from people who were alive before everything went to hell, about how there were massive buildings dedicated to selling things like clothing, food and whatever else they wanted, and then food started becoming scarce, people stopped making clothes, and the infected overran the cities. The government did it’s best to exterminate and keep most major cities infection free, and in some part, they were successful. But, eventually they would fall, all of them would. A firefly attack, a hidden spore in one of the buildings, corrupt groups within the government breaking off, whatever holdouts the FEDRA have left, they get smaller each day.

    The sight in front of him was one such example, though it looked like they abandoned this one a long time ago. He had been making runs throughout the city for a few days now, scavenging whatever he could find and scrounging up whatever government supplies they left behind. Thankfully, the weather proved to be far more forgiving than last autumn, so there was no rain this time, letting Sam make a small makeshift camp beneath a dead tree trunk he used for cover. The camp was about a 5-minute walk away from the city’s outskirts, leading up to a small overlook letting him observe the buildings from afar.

    He grabbed the binoculars from his backpack and observed. One of the lenses has been broken long ago, but then again most of the things he used were at least partially broken or damaged so as always he did the best with what he could and looked only with the half of the binoculars he hadn’t sawed off.

    Like with all the other times it was dead quiet, at least from the outside. He held his breath for a second and focused to see if he could hear anything. Once again, nothing, save for the wind beginning to pick up.

    ‘Right, let’s hope those bastards are still sleeping’ and with that he began his trek into town. With luck, it would be his last and he could finally get down south out of this damn cold.

    He never liked having to go into cities, though it was a necessity at this point, there were few places away from the beaten path with access to gunpowder, metals and scraps he needed, and one can only make do with a bow and arrow for so long.

    Carefully, he began his trek into the city, keeping himself alert every step of the way. Infected were never his strong suit, not to fight, nor to sneak around, and not even to run from. They were unpredictable, focused, and sometimes it seemed even unstoppable. Humans, they could be exploited, manipulated, taken out easily if one was smart enough, but the infected were a different story. They don’t care about the difference between a grown adult or a child, the threat between someone with a knife and someone with a gun, or even if the path to their target can be passed, they only have one goal, to kill you and create more of them. He’s seen it all, throats being bit open, skulls being caved in, jaws getting ripped apart, to all of that getting shot between the eyes or having an arrow in the gullet do you in almost seems like a mercy. At least your corpse won’t be a fertilizer ground for a fresh batch of spores and fungus to carry over to the next unlucky bastard.

    Once Sam could feel the concrete beneath his feet did he pick up the pace, it would be easier to hear something coming from inside the city, even though there a lot more places to get ambushed.

    Today would hopefully be his final run, so from his pack he pulled out a small list of things he had already spotted but couldn’t bring with him yesterday.

    ‘Right, let’s see what’s gonna be on the shopping cart today.’ he thought to himself. Shopping carts themselves were always something that bothered Sam, too noisy, too hard to use. His father once told him how they were used constantly, before, but he honestly couldn’t understand why. A backpack, a crate, hell even a bag seemed to be more useful. ‘People back then were stupid… no wonder the world burned up’. One last time he checked the list;

    -Wrench (auto shop)

    -Canned foods (FEDRA camp (2 cans left, gotta get ‘em))

    -Hammer (gun store)

    -Jaw screw (also gun store)

    -Nice shirt (convenience store on the right next to liquor store, 2 miles away from town center)

    ‘Forgot about the damn shirt’ he thought to himself, though honestly it was better he didn’t get it yet, due to the little bit of sewer diving he did yesterday.

    Moving with a quicker pace he began jogging through the locations he was completely sure were empty. Though he didn’t like taking them on, there was only so long someone could attempt to go around infected, so Sam also made work to try and take them out, if only the ones who proved to be in his way. A few spike traps there, a couple of holes there, and soon the city proved to be a bit safer. Well, “safer” in the most loosest of terms.

    Eventually he got to his first stop, the auto station. This place was likely used to fix up whatever military vehicles FEDRA still had left, if the armored APC still lifted up near the ceiling was anything to go by. The wrench was a rusty old thing, but it was sturdy if the dead body of the stalker right next to it was anything to go by. ‘If you can cave a spore filled skull in, you can fix up a few bolts and screws’.

    One place down, three more to go. Next up, the FEDRA camp.

    Some light jogging, climbing in and out a few buildings, and occasional backtracking due to getting lost later he made it to the FEDRA camp.

    It was as deserted as a military base could be. Usually, when these situations happened, standard protocol was to secure civilian evacuation first then extract all resources available. Standard protocol, however, didn’t account for the human condition, and the fact that most soldiers usually tucked tail and ran the moment the outer perimeter had been breached. Didn’t matter if it was infected or fireflies or whatever else the world managed to throw at them, humans adapt, they survive, no matter whoever else is left behind.

    ‘Now which one of these is the cook tent?’ he looked along the line of half-torn army tents. It seemed like this was more a supply post than an actual living district, but he was no expert on FEDRA stations, so maybe those assumptions should be left to the people who abandoned their own. ‘I can’t say I’m much better though…’

    Eventually he remembered the path to the supply tent and acquired what little canned foods the soldiers had left behind. It was a good find in all honesty; he had to make two full runs before just to get all the other things he needed, mostly shell casings and meds. With a can of peaches and strawberry in his pack, he had only two more places to go. One more if it looked like he couldn’t make it out before nighttime.

    The wind was starting to pick up again, but thankfully most of the clouds had parted so there was no real chance of rain, at least for now. From the sun finally rearing its ugly head it looked like it was about 2 hours or so past noon, so he still had time to go around and pick up all he needed. Until yet another thought came to his mind, or rather, an observation.

    ‘It’s quiet.’

    In the first few days he was going around the city, Sam could find no end of infected mumbling and shambling about. A lot of them looked brand new, around a week or so of infection time on them. Most likely other survivors working in groups, scavenger crews working for nearby settlements. As for the others, it was the typical Stalkers and Clickers, but not a single other person. ‘Good. The less people around the less complicated it gets.’

    Like with the infected, he had seen them all. From starving mothers and children to raiders and hunters just looking for a fresh new catch. Whenever he ran into any of them however, he tended to keep his distance, so much so they usually never even noticed he was there, and like a little rat, he would slink away without a sound. It wasn’t all bad though, there were times when he had found people in danger; hungry, thirsty, tired, injured or even currently being injured, and through his thick skull came some small shred of decency, so Sam decided to help them. In turn, he had their ‘everlasting thanks’, some of them even offered to have him join up with their community or group or repaid his kindness with some small token of gratitude. And yet, whenever he declined their offers of help, of companionship or of repayment, he was always met with the same looks. Relief, confusion, anger, understanding. He’s seen it all.

    No one likes a drifter, much less a wandering one. If he wasn’t seen as a target then he was seen as a victim. Some poor broken soul with a scar that couldn’t be healed. In reality it was just simpler this way. He didn’t have to worry about anyone else getting in his way or slowing him down, nor did he have to worry about being a bother to others. His father always told him that people look for others as a form of comfort, a linchpin to keep them steady in the darkest of times, and to lift them up even higher in the brightest. That in the end, it’s just a part of human nature.

    ‘Ever the damn poet you were pops.’ If it were an inevitable part of human nature then it would seem Sam didn’t have a need for it. He survived this long by himself after all. Everything falls, buildings, roads, people, you just have to accept it and move on. Everything falls, eventually.

    One good thing about all his journeys was that he could debate his existence all by himself for as much as he wanted. ‘I think I’ve had my fill of pessimism for now though…’ Sam thought to himself and moved on to the final two destinations.

    As he traversed the city streets he made it a habit to stop every few minutes to try and listen for anything, and every time it yielded the same result, utter silence. There weren’t even any pigeons flying around. What he was really listening for though was the infected. They usually liked to stay inside around this time, somewhere nice, warm and damp; the cold wasn’t too good for them as far as Sam knew.

    He would like to think that he was simply too efficient in his trap making and spore burning, but the reality often proved far too disappointing.

    Finally reaching the gun store, he entered through the main doors, the air inside the building retained the moldy, cramped and warm flow that filled many of the cities ruined corners. The front was not his aimed destination however, it was the back that had what he wanted. As he leaped across the mostly-intact glass counter, he entered into the back to find the gun pieces right where he had left them.

    ‘Right, time for some craftsmanship.’ It was a little pet project of his, to try and make a firearm entirely from scratch using nothing but his wits, his experience, the resources he could find, and just the tiniest bit of luck.

    From his backpack, he pulled out the half-done pistol. It was a crude design at best; The handle was made from the remains of a park bench he took a plank of and carved up to fit well with his hands. The barrel was more a single small metal pipe connecting with the trigger and firing mechanism to lead the bullet the right way. In addition, the little mechanisms he did manage to procure up until now amounted to scrap metal he managed to bend into screws and a trigger. You could fire it, that was sure, but try and do so and you might not have a hand to attempt it again.

    Which is why this small jackhammer and screw were vital to his design. He needed something to be able to ignite and push the mechanisms into motion whilst holding the whole thing together. He was hoping to also find some good polymer or plastic so he could try and make an outer shell for the barrel, a good way to stabilize it a bit and prevent the bullet from just shooting out the side if it ever exploded.

    Slowly but surely, he inserted each piece carefully into the firearm, carving and sculpting the body to fit in better and have the whole form give out a much more useful aesthetic, though in reality looks were not his top priority.

    Time flied by as the afternoon soon turned to evening and Sam had finally gotten his head off the workbench. He had done it, the hammer and screw were put in place perfectly, and his little pet project was beginning to come into reality more and more every day. Soon he’d have a fully working firearm at the ready for when the going gets tough, he just needed an outer case.

    It wasn’t the pure need for a firearm that drove Sam into making this gun. He already had a sidearm of his own that he carried around everywhere he went. A relic of his time back in DC. No, it was the urge for accessibility, the drive for something new. This gun may be crude and a bit unwieldy, but when he was done with it, it would serve better in this world than any military grade rifle.

    He got up from his stool and packed everything in his pack. He still had a bit more time before nightfall, and if he hurried, he could be out of the city and back on the road by first light tomorrow. ‘Let’s get that shirt.’ He got out of the back room with a near spring in his step, Sam was feeling good, up-beat, optimistic even.

    Not even a second after, his heart nearly froze and instincts took over. He jumped to cover behind the cash register, the only place not made transparent by glass. He heard a voice, footsteps… no, he heard hooves. ‘Riders, you gotta be ****in-’ before he could even finish his thought, he heard another voice.

    “You sure he was heading this way?” a man’s voice, deep and yet unsure sounding.

    “I’m sure.” Another voice, this time it was a girls.

    “Are you? Because the way I’m seeing it we’ve been wandering around the same city block for an hour now.”

    “I’m sure Jesse. Now quit whining, you volunteered for this remember?”

    “I volunteered because Dina probably wouldn’t have let me hear the end of it if I let you go by yourself.”

    “Well I’m glad to know my life, and in turn our friendship, means so much to you.”

    “So you are aware of how stupid this is.”

    “Just shut up and let me focus on the map.”

    The two voices became louder and louder the closer they got to the store, Sam stood frozen behind the counter. ‘Heading this way? He? These hunters… No, they don’t sound like the usual batch.’ He stood and thought on the voices. Trying to outrun them would be stupid, and hiding in the buildings if he got spotted would only go so far. His only option would be to sneak past them unnoticed… or to… ‘No, come on. Think… You just gotta think.’ He calmed down to listen in one more time.

    “Cross the street… go left… up right from the flower shop…” the girl mumbled as Sam heard the rustling of some paper. A map, most likely, or maybe just a list of directions.

    “We’re lost.”

    “And then circle back…”

    “We’re lost.”

    “After that…”

    “Yup, lost.”

    “Will you just shut up?! Complaining isn’t going to make us any less lost!”

    “Give me the map, I used to do runs here with Tommy, I know more of the terrain.”

    “Fine!” the girls voice shouted in a defeated tone. “Ass…” she mumbled.

    ‘Alright, maybe they’re just scavengers; they seem far too relaxed for someone hunting down a human being.’ And yet still Sam’s mind dwelled on the first words he heard ‘…he was heading this way… who did they mean?’ It wasn’t him, at least he thought it wasn’t. He had less than pleasant experiences with Hunters before, and a few of them sent out their fair share of hunting parties after him. ‘But still, this far north?’ he asked himself.

    “We wouldn’t have gotten lost if we didn’t make a detour in that stupid store.” The girl’s voice spoke up again and Sam put his ears up to listen.

    “And miss out on this sweet ass shirt? You wish. Now come on, I think I know where we’re supposed to go.”

    And with that the two spurred their horses forward, but not before Sam peaked over just out of eyesight to get a look at the two of them.

    A girl, it was tough to determine what age since he couldn’t see her face but from the sound of her voice she sounded young. The top of the broken window still of the shop obscured the two’s faces, however, Sam could still make out their body types. The girl seemed to be a bit smaller than the boy, she was skinny as well, though she wore a lot of loose fitting clothes it looked like.

    The boy seemed to be a bit older and of a larger build, at least judging from his voice. He wore much less clothes than the girl, who was equipped with a jacket lined with pockets, while the boy was wearing only a long-sleeved shirt. A shirt that seemed… quite familiar… almost the same as…

    “Son of a bitch took my shirt…” Sam muttered near-silently under his breath. It was weird to say the least, he hadn’t heard his own voice for what felt like years. However, there were more pressing matters at hand.

    On one hand, he could just beeline it back to his camp, sneak away without them ever even noticing. They do not seem to be putting up much of an effort towards searching every building, so it would practically be too easy, and it most definitely would not be the first time. Alternatively, he could try to snatch that shirt from them when they aren’t looking. The boy wearing it might be a tough hurdle to go through but he could manage, they would have to set up camp eventually. The question came up, would he follow them or not?

    ‘It is a nice shirt…’

    He pondered for a moment, and soon the two other survivors vanished from his view. It was time for him to make his decision. Leave or follow.

    ‘Ah, screw it.’ And so he followed.

    Slowly and carefully, he slinked through the concrete maze, trailing them as they navigated through the cityscape. They obviously were ten times as confused as they let on, but the boy seemed to know what he was doing, and so the girl followed, with an unknown little rat right on their tail. ‘Slow and steady wins the race Sammy boy, stay calm.’ He thought to himself. A single wrong step could cost him his life, as it often does in these situations.

    It was a short while before the two riders stopped in front of the local museum. It seemed to be their destination, and Sam’s suspicions were quickly confirmed as the two tied their horses to the nearby trees. Meanwhile, Sam stayed hidden underneath the ruined wreck of an old military APC. ‘This is where they were heading?’ he thought, ‘It’s right in the middle of town, they must have passed it about a hundred times.’

    He observed from a distance, and watched as the two conversed about something. At this point, they were too far away for him to catch anything. Once they entered the building however, Sam began getting closer. He made an effort to avoid the horses so to not spook them and give away his position. That meant he would have to avoid the main entrance as well.

    As he slinked past the horses and onto the side of the museum building, he found the old escape ladder that led up to the rooftop. ‘Could probably look at them from up there.’

    It was at perhaps the halfway point of climbing up the ladder that Sam asked himself if this was really worth it. All of this for a damn shirt? Really? ‘Yeah well buzz off, it’s a nice cotton patch. Goes great with the skin and wind.’ He told himself off and continued climbing.

    Once on the rooftop he hunkered down and slowly began approaching the glass ceiling. He had to be careful, one wrong move and could most like slip and fall down there.

    All caution seemed to have been thrown to the wind once he heard the first gunshot. It was a loud, ringing, ear-bleeding sound. It reminded him why he hated guns so much, and yet, once again, instincts took over. Sam leaped to cover and readied his own gun. It looked like they had found him.

    ‘Dammit, they must have known! They knew I was tailing them! Is this a trap?’

    Another gunshot, and then another, followed by a scream and a grunt. Soon Sam figured what was actually happening. The shots weren’t coming from up top, they were coming from down below. And with it soon came the screams of the infected. Runners, by the sound of them. He slowly made his way to the open rooftop that was once a set of fully encased ceiling windows. From down below he saw his two targets giving it their all to fight back a couple dozen runners all charging at them.

    With good precision, they managed to land a few shots, downing the initial few that were closest to them before the boy took out a hatchet, and began fighting them off with that. Meanwhile, the girl stopped using a gun as well, and fought the remaining runners with a pocketknife. Both fought with experience and general agility, evading all of the infected blows while dealing their own to take out as many of them as they can to not be encircled.

    But, there were simply too many of them, and soon enough they were on even more on the defensive. While the two did their best, Sam began contemplating. ‘Well… this is one way to get that shirt.’ It would be easy to let them die here and there and come back tomorrow to get their loot. ‘Then again… these fungus ****s are probably gonna tear them apart…’ the girl shoved a blade through one of the runners’ gullet. ‘Limb from limb… they’re not like clickers in that regard...’ a runner charged at the boy, to which he dodged and stuck his weapon into its skull. ‘And once they do die, who’s to say there won’t be spores popping up. Would rather not deal with that whole mess.’

    The situation for his targets seemed to be becoming more and direr, and yet they continued fighting them off without a hint of hesitation. He almost thought it admirable to be standing your ground for this long, if it were him in that situation Sam would have ran after the first bullet was shot.

    “Jesse!” the girl cried out to her partner, who quickly got entangled in the iron grip of the infected. Had the girl not acted as fast as she did, the runner would have no doubt already planted his teeth into the boy’s throat, or worse.

    As their situation worsened Sam’s conscience began to feel sorry for the two. ‘Dammit, come on, just get outta there already.’ He thought. ‘What are you even staying here for? The exit’s right behind you!’ he screamed internally. And yet, they continued pushing forward further into the museum. It was only after he heard the name the girl kept screaming that Sam finally understood what they were doing.

    “Joel! JOEL!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, overshadowing even the ear-bleeding screeches and cries of the runners. They weren’t looking for him, that was confirmed at least. They were looking for this Joel guy.

    In the end though, there were just too many of them. Eventually, the exit became blocked off from new infected coming in. ‘A nest probably, somewhere down in the basement.’ Clickers liked dark, warm spaces to start planting a nest and start releasing spores, best locations usually are basements and underground areas.

    “Up here! Come on!”

    “Wait, what about-“

    “He’s not here, now let’s go!”

    They fought their way through another round, but the exhaustion was clear to see, they will die if help doesn’t come.

    ‘Don’t get involved.’ Sam told himself. ‘You don’t know these people, you don’t care about them.’ Gunshots began ringing again as they traded in their melee weapons for firearms. ‘Just let them go. They are not important. They don’t mean anything to you.’

    But they did mean something to somebody. This Joel surely meant a lot to them if they would go through this much trouble just to find him. There was no one Sam could think of he would do this much for, except maybe his father… but he died a long time ago.

    ‘Yeah… he did die didn’t he?’ it was almost a rhetorical question. He knew full well what became of his father, he was there the day he put that bullet through his skull. ‘Turning into one of those things. It’s a fate worse than death, than the most unimaginable torture, worse than everlasting solitude.’

    Solitude, he knew a lot about that as well.

    And so, he gripped the rails of the rooftop and focused his efforts. It seemed morality had won him over this time. Reaching into his pack he grabbed a piece of rope tied around a grapple and attached it to the rail, before throwing it down.

    “UP HERE!” he shouted, and for the first time in a long while, he could hear himself clearly again.
  2. Winter1231505

    Winter1231505 Jedi Youngling

    Oct 16, 2020
    Chapter 2: Being a hero isn’t easy

    “UP HERE!” Sam shouted, throwing down the rope right in-between his former targets and a batch of four runners. They both looked up in confusion, then brushed it off and ran towards the rope.

    After taking one infected down with a knife between the eyes she was the first to grab on and start climbing up while the boy held them back as best he could. Climbing ropes was a feat of upper body strength in and of itself, made no easier by the large amount of extra weight in the form of your backpack. The girl’s face showed clear signs of her struggling to climb up, most probably tired after a long fight, but still, her adrenaline kept her going.

    Once she managed to latch off the rope and onto the railings, Sam grabbed her by the backpack and pulled her up the rest of the way onto the roof.

    “Thanks…” she said through exhausted breaths.

    “Thank me once we get your friend out as well.” He responded.

    The two of them then looked down to see the boy still giving it his all. ‘I’ll give ‘em credit, they seem to be pretty good at this. Better than me at least.’

    “Jesse!” the girl called out, prompting her partner to start his ascent up the rope. To which he promptly responded by kicking one last infected to the ground and climbing the rope as fast as his arms could make him.

    And yet fatigue proved to be quite the bitch, soon he slowed down, being just low enough for one of the infected to grab on to his foot. It wasn’t a runner though, it was a clicker. “God damn it!” the boy cried out, struggling to hold on to the rope as the infected dragged him down. “Get-… off of me…” he lifted his legs up even higher, yet the Clickers gripped stayed strong, the only difference being now that both of them were off the ground.

    “The moment that ****ers head gets high enough he’s sinking his teeth into your buddy.” He placed a hand on the girls shoulder to catch her attention. “In other words, he’s ****ed if we don’t do something right now.”

    The girl took a second and thought. A moment later, she pulled out a gun from her back and took aim. “We’ll shoot him off then.” Before she was able to put her fingers on the trigger however, Sam stopped her.

    “How confident are you in your aim?”

    “Confident enough, now let go.”

    “A single wrong sway and he’s dead.”

    “Then I won’t miss, now let go!”

    “You won’t make the shot goddammit!”

    She pushed Sam’s hands off of her and looked at him with seething eyes, “Then what do you want me to do, huh?! I won’t just leave him here!”

    “For God’s sake will one of you just pull me up? There!” the boy intervened, still struggling against the clicker.

    “Oh… right…” she mumbled. The two quickly grabbed on to the rope before Sam stopped her again. “Oh what now!”

    “I’ll pull the rope while you grab onto the grapple, just keep pulling, it’ll be easier this way.”

    “Fine, let’s just get him up here!” she huffed and then gripped the grapple as tight as she could.

    Slowly but surely they managed to slowly lift both the boy and the clicker, all the while Jesse swung from the rope left to right and kept kicking the clicker with his other foot whenever it tried to climb onto him. “Persistent bastard!” the boy shouted as he drove another kick into the clickers face, cracking open the fungus shell.

    “Almost, just a bit more!” Sam and the girl made one last final push to bring him up to the railings.

    As soon as they did, he practically jumped off the rope as Sam managed to catch him by the sleeves of his jacket and pull him up. As soon as the boy made it over the clicker received one last kick to the face before falling back down into the museum.

    Sam’s former targets breathed a sigh of relief as both of them nearly collapsed on the floor, huffing and puffing as if they just sprinted across the entire city. “You two okay, any bites, cuts, sprained ankles?” Sam asked.

    “Yeah… yeah nah we’re okay…” the boy said through tired breaths. He was lying headfirst into the concrete, but quickly managed to get back up onto his feet and face himself towards Sam. “Hey man, thanks for the save, thought we were-“ he stopped himself, and blinked a few times. “You’re not from Jackson.” He stated bluntly, as if Sam was supposed to know where the hell that even was.

    “Correct.” Sam replied, rolling the rope back and quickly putting it in his pack. “And none of us will be anymore if we don’t get the hell outta here in the next minute or so.”

    “Oh yeah?” the girl jumped in, finally managing to regain her composure. “And why is that?” she asked smarmily.

    “Stairs.” Sam pointed lazily towards the door entrance towards the rooftop. “A luxury we don’t really have as about 80% of it is filled with spores, but you can bet your ass those runners know how to use them.”

    And right on que the doors Sam had pointed too began violently shaking and coming apart as the infected seemed to have figured out where they are. “In hindsight all that yelling probably wasn’t a good idea.” He tried to say as non-chalantly as possible, yet the glare he shot the girl remained fully noticeable. To which she responded with a quite tasteful “**** you.”

    “Alright, then where to?” The boy asked.

    “Ladders, right behind me, can’t miss ‘em.” Sam pointed towards the path he made a few minutes ago.

    “And what about you?” the girl asked.

    “You two just go, don’t worry I’ll be right behind you. Ladies first and all that.”

    “Right. Come on Jesse.”

    “Don’t have to tell me twice.” The two made a run for the ladder, but not before the Jesse guy turned and called out to Sam. “Hey! Try not to die on us man!”

    “Yeah, yeah, I gotcha, now go!”

    The door quickly exploded off its hinges as three infected quickly came running out of the stairway. They looked around the open space of the building, maybe it was just too far for them to notice him yet, but Sam quickly caught their attention with a whistle. “Over here you chuckle****s! Come get your dinner!”

    He stood his ground, planted his heels in the concrete and hoped to God that he was able to pull off what he was planning. While he tried to stay as calm as possible, his heart began to race, and sweat began forming on his brow and palms. He began taking deep breaths as the runners came closer and closer to him. ‘Don’t screw this up, don’t screw this up, don’t screw this up…’ the phrase kept ringing in their heads.

    As he got just close enough, the runner almost leapt at Sam, going headfirst in an attempt to make both their head collide. This was maybe the best possible thing that could happen. At the very last second he dodged the runner, stepping off to the right and facing towards the empty window still leading down into the museum. ‘Don’t screw it up…’ he cocked his hand back into an open palm, ‘Don’t…’ with as much might as he could muster he lunged forward his open hand and connected with the runners face. At the exact moment of contact the runner went almost flying down into the hole. He didn’t screw it up.

    Now for the second and third. Both of which decided to come at him at the same time. The first one lunged at Sam, while the other charged his entire body into him. The two now were on him, wildly flailing their arms around trying to hit or grab onto him. This, however, was exactly what he wanted. He held them both off, keeping them both at half an arm’s length, and with as much might as he had left in him he pushed them both down into the same hole.

    “Done… and done…” he said to himself, barely managing to even get the words out.

    Yet now was not the time to rest, as more were on their way, if the screams coming from the now open stairway were anything to go on. ‘Right, that’s enough tough guy action from me.’ Sam thought, and quickly took his backpack off the ground and ran for the ladder.

    Once he was off of the roof he had a choice, go back the way he came or make a trek the opposite way and book it towards camp. ‘Those two are probably already long gone; best to break it back to camp while I still got the energy.’ He was about to make a run for it before a familiar voice called out to him from behind.

    “Hey! Over here!” it was Jesse, waving towards Sam right beside his little gal pal from their horses. “Come on, we’ve locked the main entrance! Let’s go before they break out!”

    ‘Well I’ll be damned…’ this day was just chock full of surprises apparently. Sam hesitated for a moment, still thinking of the possibility that they’ll just lead him to a trap. Jackson was never a group he heard of, and he knew a lot of ‘em, it made them unpredictable in a sense because he didn’t know where their morals lied on helping people out of trouble. But now wasn’t the time for doubts, ifs and or buts.

    “Grab on.” The girl reached out her hand as Sam ran up to the horses and he happily climbed up behind her. “Let’s go Shimmer, hiya!” and with a kick of their spurs the horses started galloping away from the museum and into the more cramped streets.

    As he looked back towards the museum, he was glad the horses trotted as far as they did. The front doors burst open like on the rooftop, except this time it wasn’t a group of runners coming out, it was a bloater. And he was not about to deal with that. The infected let out one last scream before it was gone from all of their sights, and Sam couldn’t be any happier for it.

    They rode for a few blocks until they were well away from the town centre and soundly away from any other infected. It was quite the exciting experience if anything, but soon the sounds of the runners, clickers and bloaters faded away, replaced by the sounds of his saviour’s horses. Eventually, they slowed down at the outskirts of town, and all got down from their steeds.

    “Well, that certainly was a thing that happened.” Sam said as he jumped off the girl’s horse.

    “Yup, thanks for the save by the way.” Jesse said, doing the same with his own horse.

    “You’re welcome, next time try and stay away from buildings you’re not sure on. You never know what might happen in ‘em.”

    “Ain’t that the truth.” The boy walked up to Sam and reached out his hand. “Name’s Jesse.”

    “John.” He shook his hand, after which he did the same with the girl.

    “Ellie.” She said simply, her tiny pale eyes having a much more hostile tone towards him than her companion.

    “Pleasure.” A silent pressure came between the two of them; it was just the tiniest bit awkward.

    “Hey listen, we came to this town lookin’ for one of our own. Big old bear goes by the name of Joel. Don’t suppose you’ve seen him?” Jesse cut the small silence.

    “Can’t say I have. You two are the only living, breathing people I’ve seen in a good while, least ones who aren’t doped up with funguses.”

    While Jesse and Sam talked Ellie tended to her backpack that was tied to her saddle, only turning her attention to the two of them once the mention of Joel came to my mind. “You sure you didn’t see anything? We’ve been looking for him for a few days now, there must have been something you would have found.”

    Sam shook his head, “Nah, sorry, I only just got here yesterday, thought I might find some food and scrap here.” Ellie squinted her eyes, but dropped it and went back to fiddling with her stuff near Shimmer.

    After she turned her back from them Sam leaned in towards Jesse and began whispering, “Lemme guess; boyfriend?”

    Jesse smirked at that, “Nah, nothing like that.”

    “Brother then?”



    “Yeah… two of them been through hell and back. Would be a shame to lose the old timer if you ask me.” From the way he spoke about him it seemed Jesse had a fondness for ‘the big old bear’, and yet if they were willing to go through this much trouble Sam felt this Joel guy meant the world to Ellie.

    Made him wonder, if his own father disappeared, how far would he had gone to find him. ‘Doesn’t matter now does it? You’re dead old man; I already failed to save you.’ He looked at Ellie, he could see it on her face, she was worried sick, ‘Hope you manage to find him kiddo.’

    “Look man, we got an outpost about 20 clicks west of here. If you want you can bunker up with us, nights coming and it can get chilly out in the open. It’s the least we can do after you helped us out back there.”

    “I’m good, got a camp set up some miles up north. Besides, I was thinking of heading inland towards the mountains, sitting out the winter there is usually the best option.”

    “Ah, gotcha, it’s a shame really. We got a community up north, Jackson, its right near-“

    “Jesse!” Ellie interrupted him before he managed to give away any more information.

    “What? He look like a hunter to you?” it looked like this Jesse guy was the sort who wore the truth on his sleeve, and in this world that was dangerous.

    ‘At least I know now they were telling the truth.’ Sam thought. “She’s got a point. You never know who you might run into out here. Trust me; I’ve seen all kinds of characters. I appreciate the trust though.”

    “Right. Well, again, thanks for all your help man.” Jesse said as the two got back onto their horses.

    “You two stay safe out there, I hope you find your guy.”

    Sam waved at the two and Jesse returned in kind. It was nice to meet some nice folks every now and again. But just before both of them left Sam’s sight, he could hear Jesse say something.

    “Ah man, I got a tear on my sleeve.”

    “Oh will you stop complaining. Be happy we’re alive.”

    “What? It’s a nice shirt.”

    ‘Yeah… it sure is…’ and soon enough the two headed westward, quickly disappearing into the city again. Sam waited a few moments before starting to make his own trek towards his camp. He followed the trails he left himself and headed east towards the forest. Eventually arriving back at his little safe haven.

    It was a remote place in the forest, lined with shrubbery and near a cave. It was windy and cold enough to ward off any of the infected from laying sprouts, while being isolated enough from any main roads or paths to keep him safe from other people. In terms of set-up, there was very little, not even a campfire, just some supplies he had packed up near the tree stump and the hollow trunk of a great oak that he used as cover to keep him away from the elements.

    He sat down on the stump and placed his backpack down in front of him. ‘Right, let’s see what we got.’

    Overall, it was a pretty great haul. He had gotten about two cans of food, which could last him about 4 days depending on how well he rations them, alongside his already found and foraged food he could probably last about 2 months. ‘If I go up north, I probably won’t be able to find any food like this. Berries are pretty nice every now and them but they won’t cut it for a full months worth of food. I could always go hunting, make myself a bow and arrow, but don’t know how good I would be with that.’

    He took another look at his already gathered supplies from the other days. ‘If I go down South, follow the coastline, I can probably stay away from the snow. Maybe I could scavenge around the cities a bit more, though that would probably mean headin’ up against more of the infected, and maybe even more people.’

    He thought about it for a few moments, considering his options and momentarily regretting not taking Jesse up on his offer, Sam thought long and hard on the possibilities of where he would go next. ‘Ah well, guess I can just sleep on it.’

    As he was about to get up from the stump however, he froze. A sound, ever so slight. The rustling of leaves from a bush. It wasn’t the sound itself that was the problem though, it was the fact that there was no wind. He darted his head around, looking frantically if he was followed, if someone had found him.

    Sam pulled out his gun, an old 9mm he kept back when he was still in DC. He scanned around, not making a single sound and listening intensely. Until, another sound, from the same bush. He aimed his gun as his heart began pounding. The tension became sickeningly thick in the air as Sam held his breath and focused. That was, until, an unlikely outcome came of his paranoia.

    It was a squirrel. Funny little thing, brown and bug eyed. Both of them starred at each other for a second, before the little critter scurried off into the trees. Sam couldn’t help but smile, maybe he was being a bit too paranoid.

    That is, he would have thought that, had he not heard the hammer of a gun cocking back behind him.
  3. Winter1231505

    Winter1231505 Jedi Youngling

    Oct 16, 2020
    Chapter 3: A friendly chat

    As he heard the click of the gun, Sam slowly began lifting his arms. “Don’t move.” The voice behind him said, and he followed suit. Still as a stone, he waited and listened, and yet not a sound would come.

    “Been a while since anyone snuck up on me like that, gotta give you credit.”

    “Just stay put.” The voice said.

    From the sound of it, Sam’s assailant was on the older side, and the gritting of his teeth was either fatigue or injury. “Drop the gun and turn around, slowly now.” Like before, he followed the voices instructions. After slowly planting his gun on the ground, he saw a foot quickly kick it to the side. A thousand thoughts ran through his head as to who it could be; a hunter, another survivor, some crazy murder hobo, the possibilities were endless. Just like the possibilities of this ending badly for him.

    Once he turned however, some of his fears were relieved, at least partially. An older man, looking like he was in his fifties or sixties perhaps, and wrapped in about three different layers of clothing, just like Sam. What was the most interesting part of his appearance however, were the scars and wounds currently on him. He was beat up, there was no doubt about it, and Sam hoped all that blood on his clothes wasn’t his. ‘This guy must have had a worse day than me.’

    “You bit? Breathed any spores?” the words almost immediately were thrown out of his mouth, to which his gun-pointing friend scuffed.

    “Quite considerate of you, seeing as how most people would be in quite the predicament right about now.” The old man seemed to have a sense of humour at least, or maybe that was the adrenaline in his body wearing off.

    “And I assume that predicament would be getting on my knees and begging you not to shoot me?”

    “What makes you think I won’t just shoot you anyway?”

    “Haven’t done that yet, have you? Besides old timer, it’s not you I’m worried about; it has to deal with about a 180 pound bastard rushing towards me to break me open like a Kit Kat bar.”

    That got a smirk out of the old man at least, and it got him to lower the gun for just a second. Sam debated with himself, should he go for it, or should he keep trying to push his luck and hope this guy isn’t insane and just playing with him. ‘He’s in a pretty rough state, I could probably take him. Then again, a single shot landing on me and I’m out. Better to not risk it.’

    Up until now the old man seemed to have the eyes of a hawk, not taking them off of Sam for even a second. But luckily, he seems to have calmed down a bit, and the situation was looking less grim. Carefully, Sam began lowering his arms as non-threateningly as he could, all the while observing little square inch of the man in front of him. On closer inspection he looked to be even older than first assumed, but then again a lot of people did in this world. His clothes were damaged almost as much as he seemed to be, but like him they also mainly intact. ‘Only thing that’s worrying me is that blood, guy like him, won’t be able to survive much longer if he’s lost that much.’ And so Sam took his shot.

    “I’m assuming that ain’t all your blood, right?” he asked.

    Immediately the old man began pointing his gun at him once again, almost as if Sam’s words woke him up or something. In a flash he looked over Sam to see if he was trying to do anything, before tilting his gun and forcing him to raise his arms again.

    “Listen man, you’re hurt, that’s plain to see. I just wanna-“ before he could finish the man stepped into the conversation.

    “I’m the one who’s going to be doing the talking. And unless you want me to pull this trigger you’re going to answer my questions. I think you’re lying, I put one in your knee, lie to me again, I put it in your other one.”

    ‘Dammit.’ Sam thought. ‘He’s caught onto me. Doesn’t matter what I say anymore, he’s the one controlling the conversation now.’ His heart began beating again as Sam became nervous. The old man was not one who seemed to be up for idle chatter, even more so now. ‘Unless…’

    “Alright, alright.” He spoke in as soft a tone he could. “Tell you what; how about we do it like this, you ask me a question, I ask you one.” This would be the vital part now. If he played his cards right he could just make it out of this alive.

    The man looked at Sam as if he just grew another pair of eyes. There was a silence, and Sam gulped down his fears and grit his teeth for the answer. Eventually, the old man walked a few steps back and sat down on a knocked over log before pointing his gun towards the stump Sam was sitting on. Like with everything else, Sam slowly but surely followed the man’s instructions, scanning for every possible opportunity as a million different approaches ran through his head. Once the two were sat down facing one another the old man lowered his gun.

    “You get one, I get one.” He said matter-of-factly.

    “Alright then, you first.” At this point Sam’s voice was almost a whisper, he was sweating bullets.

    It didn’t take the old man even a second to think of his question. “Why are you here?” the words echoed as the wind began picking up, scrapping together the fallen leaves off the ground and shaking new ones off the trees.

    ‘Ok, calm, stay calm. You got this kiddo.’ A lie meant a bullet to the knee that was what he had to remember. “Passing through. I was planning on heading north up the mountains to sit out the winter.” And now was the time to put his money where his mouth is. “I arrived here a bit ago to just scavenge for some supplies, see what I could find.”

    “That it?” the old man asked, whilst Sam stayed silent and stared at him dead in the eyes. “You turn deaf all of a sudden. I asked you a question.”

    “That you did, but you already asked one, and I answered.” He leaned in a bit and loosened up, resting his arms on his knees and having the slightest smirk on his face. ‘Don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me…’

    He was silent a moment, before uncocking the hammer of his gun and staring back. “Alright, shoot.”

    ‘He messing with me now…’ the wording wasn’t lost on him, but it did wipe the smirk off Sam’s face. ‘Maybe he’s catching on again.’ Still, now was his chance. “You a hunter?” he asked in the most non-chalant way he could.

    “No.” the man answered in an instant before quickly cocking his gun and pointing it at him again. “My turn.”

    ‘He sure does love waving that thing around, just wish he didn’t wave it at me.’ Sam thought, before the second question came.

    “Are you a hunter?”

    Sam thought long and hard for the answer that the man was looking for. Was he a hunter? As far as he could tell he wasn’t lying, but then again he didn’t have one factor that the person opposite to him had, the gun-factor. Eventually though, he managed to muster up an answer.

    “Hunters travel in packs. I look like a pack to you?” Sam said before realizing what he had just done, and so had the old man.

    “No, you don’t. Next question.” He quickly wiped the sweat off his brow, keeping his gun on Sam the entire time, finger on the trigger. “You’re not from around here, I can tell by your accent. Where are you from?”

    “East Coast.” Sam answered quickly. ‘He’s lookin a lot less tense, thank god for that at least.’

    “You’re from DC ain’t ya?” Sam almost answered with a nod, but stopped himself when he remembered the little game they were playing. The old man huffed, letting out the slightest hint of a smile; “You don’t have to answer that one, I’d recognize you folks anywhere.”

    “Ok then.” Sam thought long and hard on what question he could ask to keep himself from dying, until an idea ran through his head. “What’s your name old man?”

    Like with the last two times the man answered as quick as lightning, before Sam could even utter the last word of his question. “John.” He said.

    “What a surprise, seems you and I have the same name.”

    “That so?” he asked, though it seemed he stopped caring about the rules of their little game.

    “That it is, though I do have one more question for you.” The old man nodded before uncocking his gun for the third time now as Sam leaned in once more. “Do the names Ellie and Jesse mean anything to you?”

    Whatever good will he managed to gather up with the old man vanished in only an instant. Immediately the gun was being pointed at him again, though perhaps less obvious as he kept it low enough that Sam couldn’t see it if he kept staring at “John” in the eyes. It seemed as if he was about to deny it, but realized he couldn’t keep up that act. That or he was getting too tired to keep this whole thing up.

    “So you are a hunter…” he began speaking in a low, menacing voice.

    Sam lifted his arms again, “I’m not a damn hunter. Met up with those two back in town, saved their asses from a group of runners, clickers and a damn bloater. They came all the way here looking for you… Joel.”

    And that was the checkmate for him, he had Joel right where he wanted him, at least he thought he did. Now was time to press whatever advantage he could scrape up.

    “Listen man, they told me about an outpost they had bit North of town. You ain’t walking all the way there on your own two feet like that bucko, I can tell ya that.” He got up from the stump, slowly and as non-threateningly as possible, and tried his best not to screw this up. “I got some bandaged down there in my bag, I can fix up any scratches on you if you got ‘em and we can head towards that outpost of yours.”

    Joel remained silent, simply staring back at Sam and most likely pondering his options. “Or you can shoot me. Take my stuff. See if you can’t reach ‘em before you bleed out, breathe your last breath.” As he lowered his gun, Sam inwardly smirked. ‘Check and mate, got ‘em.’

    He slumped his shoulders, and finally put away his gun for good, placing it in the back of his pants. “Go on.” He said in a tired manner, it was obvious the old man was running out of energy, quickly. At the point where Joel nearly fell off the log Sam quickly caught him by the shoulders.

    “I’ll get you some bandages for those cuts. You need anything else? Painkillers maybe?” he asked, looking over each part of Joel’s wounds. He mainly had small cuts here and there, nothing too major, but still, it was something a man his age shouldn’t be going through. It was obvious at this point he was running on fumes, even more so than Sam.

    “Bandages… no meds…” he said through fainted breaths.

    “Alright old man, gimme a second.” He quickly rummaged through his things and found his cleanest bandages. And yet, another thought came through his head. ‘The gun…’ he looked at his dropped firearm and pondered if he could make a break for it. ‘One shot, I pack up as quick as I can and run for the hills. What one other group gunning for me at this point.’ And yet, when he saw the old man, he could help but think of Ellie, her face, and how much she was willing to give up to find him.

    It wasn’t long though before Joel slumped over and passed out, luckily Sam had already placed him off the log and on the ground, so he didn’t hit his head. Finally, he pulled out the bandages and wrapped them around the most obvious points of injury.

    “You’re lucky old man, looks like I’m on quite the moral streak today.” He whispered, more to himself than Joel, but still, it was the thought that counts.

    Now he had a choice to make. He could go right now, carry the old man to the outpost and be done with it, leave first light the next day. Alternatively, he could let him rest. Joel wasn’t in any serious condition, he was just tired and a bit injured, and in the state Sam himself was in, he didn’t know if carrying an big man like him for some few kilometres or so was good for his health.

    Then, he heard another noise, and quickly shot his head up. A horse.

    It had no rider, yet it was wearing a saddle. It approached the two as if it recognized one of them. Sam quickly understood, ‘Must be his, makes sense, two of them had ones as well. Jackson must have a stable or something.’ He thought. Hunters often travelled by car or truck, it was loud and drew attention, which is what they were after, so horses were the next best thing as a means of transportation.

    ‘Still, it might be better to get you hitched and get this old man a blanket. Nights almost here, and I don’t plan on relying on the moon for travelling.’

    And so they waited out the night. Sam at first stood guard, he had hitched the horses bridle next to a nearby tree branch, and gave Joel his jacket to keep him off the cold. ‘You need it more than me.’ He thought. Eventually though, he dozed off, and was only awakened when the Sunshine pierced through the foliage, it was morning.

    He looked around, Joel was still there, fast asleep, and the horse remained steadfast alongside him. “You’re a lucky man Joel.” Sam murmured to himself. “Ain’t a lot of people who got both a daughter and a horse to look after them, probably got a wife as well I bet.”, he slowly got the blanket off him and began shaking him awake. “Joel, cmon. It’s time to wake up and go.”

    As groggily as a small child he grumbled himself out of sleep before remembering where he was. In an instant he shot up awake, and in an instant he reverted back to that tired and hurt old man again as his wounds most likely reacted to his sudden movements.

    “Hey hey, easy now.” Sam said, trying to calm him down. “You were out cold, sorry. Remember me?”

    “Yeah, yeah.” Joel slowly got up and up on his feet with Sam’s help. “I ain’t that old.”

    “Coulda fooled me.” Sam got a glare for that. “Kidding, kidding… Alright let’s go. You wanna take the horse? Don’t know how good you are with walking all this way.”

    “Hop on, you can ride.” He said matter-of-factly as Sam gathered up all his things.

    “Oh no, no, no, no, I am not good with horses, believe me.” He still remembered the one time he tried taming a wild horse he found out in the fields about two years ago, did not end well.

    “Alright then…” Joel climbed up limberly on the saddle, his backpack already strapped on. “… You lead then, I’ll follow.”

    Once everything was picked up the two embarked, it was a bit of a trek, all the extra weight he was carrying didn’t help either, he was getting used to not lugging around an extra bag thanks to these past few days, but every habit needs to be broken eventually, lest you become predictable. ‘You taught me that pops, remember?’

    Their travel lasted all about 3 hours, it must have been early in the morning when they left camp as when they arrived at the outpost the Sun hadn’t even reached its height yet, so they were on good time. Most of it was spent in silence, save for a few neighs from Joel’s horse. The outpost itself was a somewhat scrappily built watchtower built upon an old news station that was mainly ruined by the process of time. It looked like these Jackson people were set up enough to be able to build watchtowers and outposts.

    “John.” Joel called up to Sam who was busy leading the horse by the reins.

    “What’s up?” this was the first time he actually spoke to him in hours.

    “Once we’re close enough, call out to them with ‘Oasis’. It’s our safe word.”

    “Gotcha.” Looks like he was starting to trust him at least.

    And just like he was instructed he shouted out “Oasis!” once they were in probable hearing range. He didn’t like shouting, made too much noise, but he hoped the outpost meant that any infected running around were taken care of long ago.

    As soon as he shouted out the safe word Sam could hear people scattering around from the inside. They were clearly still asleep. ‘Did we really leave that early?’ Sam asked himself. And yet soon the noises stopped and one of the window shutters opened to reveal a long-haired bearded man pointing a rifle at him.

    “Oh for ****s sake…” Sam murmured to himself. He was getting sick of getting guns pointed at him by now. As he turned to Joel to see if he had been set up Sam saw the old man wave his hand to their gun-wielding friend.

    “Eugene! It’s me, don’t worry!” Joel shouted up to the bearded man, to which he could spot the man’s brow visibly being raised before squinting and noticing who he was actually aiming at.

    “Joel?” the bearded man asked with a nearly baffled voice. “Oh ****.” He broke out into a laugh before running away from the window. Soon enough Sam could hear the mans laughing all the way while he went down the stairs.

    The gates to the outpost soon opened up to the picture of what Sam could only describe as his father’s description of “old school biker dude bros”. In front them stood a man with long flowing hair with a leather outfit decorating his top, alongside a spiked bracelet and a pair of black sunglasses on his head entangled within the strands of his greying, black hair. Were it not for the rattling of his heavily chained jackboots Sam would even call the outfit fashionable, at least by his standards. But this seemed to be a monstrosity alike to those of a bloater.

    “Joel you old **** you’re actually alive!” the man named Eugene walked towards Joel, arms opened up to give him a big old bear hug. Joel’s feet did not even hit the ground before said hug occurred. “Oh you stubborn old bastard, you have no idea how many of us were worried sick cuz of you.”

    “Yeah… good to see you to Eugene.” Joel said through pained breaths before Eugene let go of him so he could actual catch a break from his spine getting broken.

    “And you, you’re…” Eugene took a better look at him, and that was when his smile began to fade. “You’re not from Jackson.” He stated rather bluntly and without the, shall we say, enthusiasm of his former greeting.

    “I’ve been getting that a lot, yeah.” Sam tried to play it off with a smile and a reaching of his hand. “John, nice to meet ya.”

    “Eugene, likewise.” The smile soon returned as Eugene and Sam exchanged a handshake, with Joel already well on his way to leading his horse inside the half-wood, half-stone building. “Come inside kiddo, seems you two have been through the ringer.”

    ‘Yeah you can say that again.’ Sam wanted to say, but instead just nodded and followed Eugene and Joel inside. It was then when another figure was spotted from inside. A girl, black haired and a bit smaller than Ellie, so he immediately managed to recognize it wasn’t her from the figure, even from a distance.

    “Joel?” the girl said in near disbelief, cupping her face to perhaps hide her wide eyed smile. “Oh my goodness! Thank god you’re alive!” she quickly ran down the stairs and came right next to the two older men. “You can’t imagine how much we were all worried for you! Tommy wouldn’t stop talking about you, Ellie was a nervous wreck, don’t even get me started on Esther.” As she continued Joel slowly unwrapped his backpack off of his back whilst nodding to everything she was saying.

    “I know Dina, I kno- ow!” he was cut off by the girl punching him in the shoulder, though maybe it was more just a light tap but in the state he was in that may as well have been a hit from a battering ram.

    “Like hell you do! You think I’m giving you an earful? Wait till Ellie sees you like this, it’s gonna be me and Jesse’s heads on a pike afterwards.”

    “Right, right… Um, where is Ellie, is she here?” Joel asked, looking around as he went up the stairs.

    “No, you just missed her. She and Jesse went out to look for you one more time. We were beginning to think you were a goner. Well, me and Jesse were, I doubt Ellie would have ever given up hope for you old man.”

    “You taught her well Joey-boy, that girls a killer with that knife of hers.” Eugene stepped in, picking up all the bags Sam and Joel dropped to the ground and carrying them up the stairs.

    “Taught her how to shoot, not stab Eugene. She got that all by herself.” Joel followed Eugene as the girl put herself around his shoulders and slowly guided him up the stairs, leaving Sam alone to his thoughts for a moment.

    He felt exhausted, he felt tired, he felt sick of it honestly. Though deep down, it somehow felt alright. All the pain in his muscles, the heaviness of his eyelids, the cramps forming up around his knees. Every one of those things would have been an annoyance to Sam any other day, but right now he had a bit of an unusual feeling in his gut. Perhaps he was feeling glad he didn’t leave those two to die in town, he would have probably been dead then. Or maybe he was just glad he’s helped some people after so long away from others.

    ‘Or maybe it’s just my damn stomach… haven’t eaten anything since yesterday morning.’